Book Summary: Ogilvy on Advertising

This is the Holy Bible of Advertising. You would think a book that was written in 1985 have no significance in this social world. But the fact is, every single person who works in an advertising industry start out with this book. Hence the name.

This book has loads to offer for anyone who is thinking of writing content.

I have summarized my learning from the book below. Or You can download it here.


  • Product
  • Customers
  • What your competitors are advertising


Dove – for women with dry skin vs for men with dirty hands

Brand Image

  • Personality – name, packaging, style of advertising, nature of product,
  • Consistently project the same image
  • People buy the Image


  • Unless the advertising consist of big ideas, it will pass like ship in the night
  • Comes form unconscious – it has to be well informed else it will be irrellevant
  • “Humility in the presence of a good idea” Albert Lasker
  • Horribiliy difficult to recognize a good idea.
    • Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
    • Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
    • Is it unique?
    • Does it fit the Strategy to perfection?
    • Could it be used for 30 years?

Make the product the hero

  • There are no dull products only dull writers.
  • Positively Good – You don’t have to convince your customers that your product is superior to competitors, but positively good.
    • What is good about your product – clearer, more honest , more informative job of saying it

Repeat your winners – repeat until it stops selling

  • You aren’t advertising to a standard army but to a moving parade (new prospect who fit in to the image you propose)
  • Run it at regular intervals – repeat till the research shows its worn out

Word of mouth

Campaigns enter culture

Tag line (just do it yaar), Darke aage jeet hai

Research & Analyze

Copy writer who knows his factors (the triggers which make people read advertisements) can reach many more readers than the one who doesn’t

Direct response – Advertisement contributing to sales (time,#buying)

  • Style vs what sells what is important
  • If doesn’t sell it isn’t creative

Creativity Relevance

  • Advertising reflects more of society than influence them
  • Long time for women to advertise smoking (social influence)
  • More explicit sex on novels not in ads


  • Sense of humor
  • Curiosity for products
  • Hard work
  • Intersting post & tv campaings
  • Think visually

Crown Prince

  • Power of analysis
  • Imagination
  • Sense of reality
  • Helicopter quality (birds eye view)
  • Headlines:
  • Containing news – sure-fire. (announcement of a product, improvment, new version)
  • Donot put in in the background. Let it stand out and cry out loud.
  • Include brand name in the headline (80% wont know what product/company it is other wise)
  • Specifics (asthma..women..children) work more than generics
  • If you put it in quotes it increases recall by 28%
  • READ: Tested Advertising Methods – John Caples


  • Subject of the illustration is all important (even a great photo won’t help you there)
  • Catches Readers Curiosity – invokes them to ask – “What goes on here”
  • If you don’t have the story tell make your package the subject of your illustration
  • End-result campaign (before, after)
  • Photographs > Drawings (not cartoons)
  • Use of characters known to consumers boosts recalls
  • Simple – one person in the focus. Crowd does attract people
  • Human face bigger than life size – BIG NO
  • Historical Subject – a big no
  • The subjects that interest you need not interest the readers
  • Babies, animals, sex – interest readers
  • People are interested in the pictures of their own sex.
  • 4 colors > black & white
  • Cooked > raw
  • When A client moans and sighs, Make his logo twice the size, If he still should prove refractory, show a picture of his factory, Only in the gravest cases, should you show the client’s faces
  • Headlines below are read more than headlines above

Copy first, do your own thing later


  • Promise not only in words but also in pictures
  • Largest possible type
  • Brand visible from long distance
  • Strong and pure colors
  • No more than 3 elements in your design


Good typography helps people read your copy

TV Commercials

  • Humor
  • Testimonials
  • Slice of life
  • Problem solution
  • Talking heads
  • Characters
  • Reason why
  • News
  • Emotion
  • Not so good:
    • Celebrity testimonials
    • Cartoons
    • Music vignetts
  • Better programs lesser chance of getting people to sign up

Tips for a great TV commercial

  • Brand Identification (Use the name within in first 10 secs) – Play games with it – spell it, flash it,
  • Show the package
  • Food in motion
  • Close ups – product hero of the commercial
  • Visual surprise – open with fire
  • When you have nothing to say sing it.
  • Sound effects – music not very much but sizzling noise of the frying pan- etc creates impact
  • Voice over < Talk on camera
  • Supers – type while you voice over
  • Avoid visual banality – show something the audience hasn’t seen before
  • Change of scene (less #)
  • Mnemonics Show the product in use
  • Everything is possible on TV
  • Make it crystal clear – most of the commercials are misunderstood
  • The grand scandal – TV commercial costs > program cost – so lesser the better


  • Identify the brand early in the commercial
  • Identify often
  • Promise a benefit early in the commercial
  • Repeat often

B2B Advertising

  • Advertise specifics – $ saved,%, Time etc
  • Testimonials
  • Demonstrations
  • Information – around product and role it plays to the customer
  • Layouts – Simple + editorial like pages → more readers
  • Headlines – 5 times readership as body content
  • Promise a benefit, deliver a news, quote a customer, tell a story,recognize a problem
  • Body copy – 10% of people read it.. they are mostly your prospects.
  • >350 words attracts more people to read it
  • Captions

Stimulate Inquiries

  • Toll free #
  • Close body copy with an offer

Analyze inquiries

  • Survey a sample – do they intend to buy or do they need information
  • Follow up with sales people
  • Inquiries to media (conversion from every media)

Advertisement to top managment

  • Avoid specifics
  • They are interested in cost savings only

Direct mail

  • Success = long mails
  • Invite people to order without going to store
  • Good photograph sells more if not use drawings
  • Testimonials increase credibility →sales
  • Coupons – mini ads (has photo)
  • To avoid keeping your mail for later:
  • Limited supply
  • Limited edition
  • Last time at this price
  • Special price for promptness
  • Identify the media competitors particularly in large
  • Media → sales more (repeat)

Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure

This post was published in The Guardian. 

I couldn’t but help. Fall in love with the post, the emotions, the language, the widsom but most of all, the writers chewing out words not for the sake of the world but for the sake of the words themselves.

Here is a Excerpt:

Anne Enright

I have no problem with failure – it is success that makes me sad. Failure is easy. I do it every day, I have been doing it for years. I have thrown out more sentences than I ever kept, I have dumped months of work, I have wasted whole years writing the wrong things for the wrong people. Even when I am pointed the right way and productive and finally published, I am not satisfied by the results. This is not an affectation, failure is what writers do. It is built in. Your immeasurable ambition is eked out through the many thousand individual words of your novel, each one of them written and rewritten several times, and this requires you to hold your nerve for a very long period of time – or forget about holding your nerve, forget about the wide world and all that anxiety and just do it, one word after the other. And then redo it, so it reads better. The writer’s great and sustaining love is for the language they work with every day. It may not be what gets us to the desk but it is what keeps us there and, after 20 or 30 years, this love yields habit and pleasure and necessity.

So. All this is known. In the long run we are all dead, and none of us is Proust. You must recognise that failure is 90% emotion, 10% self-fulfilling reality, and the fact that we are haunted by it is neither here nor there.The zen of it is that success and failure are both an illusion, that these illusions will keep you from the desk, they will spoil your talent; they will eat away at your life and your sleep and the way you speak to the people you love.

The problem with this spiritual argument is that success and failure are also real. You can finish a real book and it can be published or not, sell or not, be reviewed or not. Each one of these real events makes it easier or harder to write, publish, sell the next book. And the next. And the one after that. If you keep going and stay on the right side of all this, you can be offered honours and awards, you can be recognised in the street, you can be recognised in the streets of several countries, some of which do not have English as a native language. You can get some grumpy fucker to say that your work is not just successful but important, or several grumpy fuckers, and they can say this before you are quite dead. And all this can happen, by the way, whether or not your work is actually good, or still good. Success may be material but is also an emotion – one that is felt, not by you, but by the crowd. This is why we yearn for it, and can not have it, quite. It is not ours to hold.

I am more comfortable with the personal feeling that is failure than with the exposure of success. I say this even though I am, Lord knows, ambitious and grabby, and I want to be up there with the rest of them. Up! There!

The sad thing is, when the flash bulbs do pop and fade, you are left, in the pulsing after-light, with a keen sense of how unhappy people can be with what they have achieved in life. Perfectly successful people. With perfectly good lives. And you come to appreciate the ones who have figured all that shit out. Meanwhile, and briefly, you are a “success”, which is to say an object, whether of envy or acclaim. Some people like all that, but I, for reasons I have not yet figured out, find it difficult. I don’t want to be an object. I find jealousy unpleasant (because it is unpleasant). I resist praise.

The writer’s life is one of great privilege, so “Suck it up”, you might say – there are more fans than trolls. But there are two, sometimes separate, ambitions here. One is to get known, make money perhaps and take a bow – to be acknowledged by that dangerous beast, the crowd. The other is to write a really good book.

And a book is not written for the crowd, but for one reader at a time. A novel is written (rather pathetically) not to be judged, but experienced. You want to meet people in their own heads – at least I do. I still have this big, stupid idea that if you are good enough and lucky enough you can make an object that insists on its own subjective truth, a personal thing, a book that shifts between its covers and will not stay easy on the page, a real novel, one that lives, talks, breathes, refuses to die. And in this, I am doomed to fail.

Howard Jacobson

It starts early. You can come into the world smugly trailing clouds of glory, already sainted in the life before life, or you can enter it reluctantly and ashamed, helpless, naked, piping loud – Blake’s baby not Wordsworth’s, at the first sight of whom your mother groans, your father weeps. I was a Blake baby. I failed birth. I kept my mother waiting, arriving not just late but at a peculiar angle. I caused her pain and disappointed my father, who didn’t weep exactly but would have liked his first child to have a more relaxed attitude to existence, though this was made plain to me only gradually, after years of his entering me in talent contests whenever we went on holiday to Morecambe, or pushing me up to join other kids on stage at the end of pantomimes, or shouting “Here!” and pointing to me when magicians asked for volunteers.

Success for him didn’t mean making money or excelling at anything in particular – it simply meant being at home in the world and fearing nothing. So it wasn’t because he wanted me to be a footballer or a cricketer that he objected to the notes my mother wrote every Wednesday, requesting I be excused from games. He would just have liked me to be everybody’s friend, the way he was. And I failed him. I failed my mother too by taking far too precocious an interest in sex. And I failed myself by not knowing how to get any.

But you have to see failure as an opportunity. I took the route favoured by all worldly failures and became a spiritual success. That might be an inflated way of putting it, but failures are nothing if not grandiose. If the world doesn’t value us, we won’t value the world. We seek solace in books, in solitary and sometimes fantastical thinking, in doing with words what boys who please their fathers do with balls. We look down on what our fellows like, and make a point of liking what our fellows don’t. We become special by virtue of not being special enough. I doubt many writers were made any other way.

Art is made by those who consider themselves to have failed at whatever isn’t art. And of course it is loved as consolation, or a call to arms, by those who feel the same. One of the reasons there seem to be fewer readers for literature today than there were yesterday is that the concept of failure has been outlawed. If we are all beautiful, all clever, all happy, all successes in our way, what do we want with the language of the dispossessed?

But the nature of failure ensures that writers will go on writing no matter how many readers they have.You have to master the embarrassments and ignominies of life. And, paradoxically, one of the best ways of achieving this mastery over failure is not to drown it in alcohol, not to take pills or see a shrink, but to relive it, over and over, in words. It isn’t that the words enable you to change the outcome and exact revenge – that invariably makes unsatisfactory reading. You can tell when writers are reinventing their experience vaingloriously. What writers at their best achieve is a saturation of shame, triumphing over it by excluding or extenuating nothing, possessing it as theirs, and handing it back again, depersonalised, in comedy of one sort or another.

The first novel I wrote had failure as a subject. My hero was failing to write a book about it. Had he succeeded in finishing I’d have had to write about success and I knew I never wanted to do that. It would have been a kind of sacrilege. Success as the worldly estimate it is, is rarely a subject for literature. Gatsby cannot possibly get Daisy. Dorothea Brooke cannot be allowed to change the world. Thus does art get its own back on those without the imagination to fail.

For more, read the article here.

Featured Image: Illustration by Neil Webb/Debut Art


A Quick update on my reading progress

If you are coming to my blog for the first time, you must know, I love reading.

Beginning of this year, I took upon the mighty take of reading 100 books this year.Fourth month in to the challenge, I have read 13 books till now, way below the target 31 books. This year marked a lot of changes in both personal and professional life, which sort of impacted my reading habits. So instead of reading a lot of non-fiction, I ended up reading 10 fiction. So, now, I felt the need to re-look in to where I should be spending energy. I have decided to re-evaluate my goals. In start-up terms, you would call it a pivot. Trick is not to over burden but just enough to keep the motivation to read at least 1 hour everyday. Therefore, I am planning to read just 45 books this year.

Said that, I am planning certain changes to my reading methods. I am planning to keep a book journal and do a analytical and synoptical reading as I am planning to dive deep in to just a few topics this year.

You can follow my reading progress here and follow my reviews and summaries of the books I read here in this blog.

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


When you decide to read a 100 books…

A lot of things change…

Just a quick background. I have been reading for about 10 years now. It’s been on and off for the first couple of years. But for the last couple of years I have tried to read consistently. My reading habit started with Harry Potter. And Harry Potter started because my brother couldn’t shut up about that book and kept throwing it on my face to read it.  In my mid-teens reading became a hobby. Then it transformed in to a habit. When it did, I wanted to consume more. So found out ways to consume more (read faster). I learnt about speed reading touched about 450wpm (after practising for a week then because of some circumstances, couldn’t read for about 3-4 months and lost my speed (hovering around 300wpm). Tried photo-reading, failed miserably.

And now..

I read a lot of books without knowing how to read. Of course, from time to time, I come across an article about how to read. But it never was “that” important to me. But, things changed this year.

A friend of mine took up this audacious challenge.

And he invited me.

Well, that’s it. I couldn’t say no.

I initially planned to read just 20. Having failed my previous year’s goal. But, I forced myself to accept it.

But 100 books is a lot. A lot.

What do I do with reading so many books. I know, books aren’t bad. But what do you get out of reading 100 books. Is 100 just a number? Or is it a journey? What is the purpose? What do I get from this? Definitely it is a great opportunity to learn about a lot of things including time management, planning, a topic, self-awareness etc.

But reading 100 books is not usual (to my standards at least) or easy and so it requires a different level of preparation and execution. For that, I needed to get to basics – about myself and about reading.

In order to plan the books, I needed to know more about myself – in terms of my goals, the topics I would like to master, my interests, my moods, etc. This will help me to choose book I need to read. But most importantly, it will save me a lot of time by making sure I don’t pick the wrong books.

I need to know more about reading it self. So, I spent a couple of hours browsing through thought leaders I follow and the kind of books they read and how they read. I found that reading essentially has two parts – reading and comprehending.


There are four types of reading.

  1. Elementary – The basic type. The way we have been taught to read in our school. Usually answers the question – What does this sentence say.
  2. Inspectional – Superficial or skimming. You consume a lot, but you retain very less. You can read about the two styles here. [This is my style till now].
  3. Analytical – Very similar to say your college texts. You have to read the book, understand the point it is trying to make. Outline the major topics, make notes, connect the chapters and identify the significance of the book. This takes a lot of time.
  4. Synoptical  – This the ultimate. Take a topic, read a lot of books under it, connect or contrast the ideas shared in the books and understand the unwritten.


There is where your reading starts being useful. You start to assimilate information, ideas and principles. There is a famous pen and paper method  called Feynman Technique, named after the Physicst, Richard Feynman.

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write it in such a way that you are teaching it to a 5 year old (use your own words, not the one in the book that you just read)
  3. If you get stuck, go back to the book
  4. Use a simple language.

The video explains this concept the best:

It’s also a good idea to have a commonplace note book to collect all the passages that you find relevant, make note of ideas and arguments that come up and get back to it after a week just to push the information to the permanent memory.

I just recently discovered another aspect of reading  which I feel is probably the most important aspect of reading. I call it creating.


Many of us think that reading is not a creative process like drawing, painting or writing. But, I beg to disagree.  I am sure you will agree that, no two book readings are the same. Even though you read Harry Potter for the 10th time, it is not the same experience. We are constantly creating new neural connections every time we come across new information or old information in a different context. We create new connections and one day it solidifies in to a new idea. And David Quammen rightly puts in in his book about Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin,

One of Darwin’s great strengths as a scientist was also, in some ways, a disadvantage: his extraordinary breadth of curiosity. From his study at Down House he ranged widely and greedily, in his constant search for data, across distances (by letter) and scientific fields. He read eclectically and kept notes like a pack rat. Over the years he collected an enormous quantity of interconnected facts. He looked for patterns but was intrigued equally by exceptions to the patterns, and exceptions to the exceptions. He tested his ideas against complicated groups of organisms with complicated stories, such as the barnacles, the orchids, the social insects, the primroses, and the hominids.

Found sited in Farnam Street

Artist: Daniel Lei (Source: All Things Paper)

I think, this will probably the ultimate goal to become an effective thinker, as Shane (Farnamstreet blog) puts it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Now that we have covered the foundation. Let us lay it up with books of course.

I usually pick a couple of books at a time and keep switching between them unless they are of same topic (which usually, isn’t the case). Otherwise, I pick a book and finish in a couple of days. On an average I take about 5-7 days to finish a book.

But, this time, you know it’s quite different, I want to use my reading to

  1. Improve a skill (or knowledge)
  2. Make Idea babies
  3. Simply have fun

In order to achieve these goals, I have segregated books in to four categories.

  1. Fillers – Novels – specifically pulp fiction which I enjoy the most.
  2. Topic – To improve one skill related to my full time job
  3. People – I love reading biographies. They are my constant motivation and something I always get back to.
  4. Business – My love for business is the only reason the reading habit has sustained for so long. It will cover wide range of topics from behaviour to finance to habits
  5. Misc – My passion for science, running, philosophy and cycling explored.
  6. Do – Finally, those motivational books that get me going through not-so-good times.

So, What’s your reading goal this year?  What’s been your experience so far?

Featured Image Source: whytoread

One of those days!

As I sit to write this post, I am in the most peaceful place in this world. The only noise here is the noise in my head and I am comfortably seated very very far away from chaos.

I remember, back in my college days, a friend of mine introduced me to a book written by Anne Frank. Till this day, I dare not finish the book because there was so much violence, I refused to believe it ever happened. To me it was a book that was made story. Over the years, I watched a couple of movies about Holocaust but I could never finish them. I couldn’t take it. One, because I couldn’t believe humans would do that to each other, and also because I don’t dare think what it would be like if I was there.

Today, Now. I am half way through “I am Malala“. I have already shed more than a few tears. The whole world around me is quite and I seem to be meditating – taking everything in – my reality is so peaceful, but the book showed a different picture, a picture I didn’t know could ever exist, a picture I believed was only a fiction. It was that surreal moment when I could experience both the reality around me and that in the book and I was shattered. As a I read through the book, I couldn’t help but wonder what I did in those years.. 2007..2009..2011. To sum it up in a few words, I was worried about my future. And that hasn’t changed a bit now. I still am. But, as I read through the book, I realize how trivial my worries are.

Right now I am worried about my grades – when people couldn’t go to school even if they wanted to.

Right now I am worried If I am ever going to make it big – when people don’t know they are going to live through the night.

Right now, I am about to give an interview  – when people aren’t allowed to speak for themselves.

Right now, I can go enjoy a nice cup of tea – when people haven’t eaten in days.

Right now I could go online and people will hear me out – when people are yearning to make their voices heard and no one’s there to hear them.

Right now I have everything.

Yet I act as if what I do makes no difference.

But is that true?

Aaron Swartz

Dedicated to Aaron Swartz &  Malala & people who are making a difference!! Thanks for rekindling my spirits! 🙂

For those who haven’t picked up the book yet, now is the time! Also, watch an amazing documentary – The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

Do the work: Book Summary

I love reading. But I have a poor memory. So I decided to reduce books (or articles) to just a 3 or 4 points – more like a skeleton of the mind map. 

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield in one line:

Book introduces resistance (fear), what is it, how to overcome it and do the work.

The What:Nature of resistance (fear)

Inevitable, Impersonal, Infallible,Goes for the Kill, it is intelligent, logical, omnipresent

  • Look at Resistance – as a compass to guide you
  • More the Resistance – more reason to go through with it (stay with the energy)
  • Begin – Begin fast.Begin now. Start Before you are ready
  • Idea materializes through you – you are just the means. Allow it be what it wants to be
  • Till you Ship. It’s not done, till you ship (be stubborn and get it done)
do the work, justaparna, Steven Pressfield
Quote: Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

The Hows:

How Bad do you want to do the work?

Dabbling • Interested • Intrigued but Uncertain • Passionate • Totally Committed

Why Do you want to do the work?

For the babes (or the dudes) •The money • For fame • Because I deserve it • For power • To prove my old man (or ex-spouse, mother, teacher, coach) • To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be • For fun or beauty • Because I have no choice

Unless you are totally committed and do it for fun or beauty and because you have no choice, you might not do the work.

More detailed summary is available at the domino project.
If you like to Kiss it (Keep it short and simple), grab a few treats from the Power of 3 bar!